Grassroots & Governance

Unless The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) reverses itself on its position that a resolution issued in Year 2010 stipulating a minimum of 50% shading of the ballot ovals is required for validation of the ballot, its bias for the rich will become even more obvious. The Comelec had recognized a 25% shading threshold in an en banc resolution.
In response to her letter request to Comelec for guidance, following the protest filing in July 2016 by Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Comelec Oversight Commissioner for the Random Manual Audit (RMA) Luie Tito Guia had written a memo to lawyer Felipa Anama, Clerk of the PET, informing the Supreme Court that the vote counting machines had been configured in May 2016 to count ovals with minimum shading of 25%. This threshold was considered adequate for preventing counting of accidental markings or unintended errors, and ensuring intentional votes are counted. In this country where a great majority are not used to reading and writing much, this makes sense.
The PET says it is “not aware” of such a Comelec Resolution. All it has to do is take the trouble to look for the document which should be in their files, and which was signed by then Comelec Commissioner Andres Bautista, Commissioners Guia, Christian Lim, Rowena Guanzon, Al Parreno, Arthur Lim, and Sheriff Abas. The en banc resolution formalized an agreement earlier and demonstrated by technology supplier Smartmatic prior to the May election that a 25% threshold was sensible and doable.
This development which seems to have escaped notice by major media channels is crucial to the survival of our increasingly threatened democracy. If Marcos Jr. is declared the winner in this protest, it can be attributed to this decision by the PET to stick to its guns on the 50% threshold whatever the evidence. It will also open up other protests from election losers from all over the country. It will be a major tragedy for the Filipino nation.
It will make all our marching in the streets starting from the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983 until we deposed the dictator Marcos on EDSA in 1987 an arduous but futile undertaking.
The Marcos protest has been a grueling journey for Vice-President Leni Robredo who was, after all, a reluctant candidate who accepted her duty despite seemingly hopeless odds, especially not having the money for campaign financing. She had worked extremely hard from a starting base of 1% “likely to vote” to a final victory. The financial burdens placed on her and her supporters by the Marcos protest have been awesome. The Supreme Court even disallowed some of her donors from contributing to her protest expenses; at the same time that Marcos Jr. handily paid his millions, claiming that he, haha, had raised the money with help from friends.
This same Supreme Court has just recently revived a dormant case against Philippine Airlines (PAL) which FASAP (the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of PAL) had won twice. Suddenly, out of the blue, the SC decided the FASAP illegal dismissal case in favor of the extremely wealthy PAL controlled by Lucio Tan who had earlier been convicted for tax evasion.
A few years ago, the Supreme Court, majority of whom were appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and who, it seems were recommended by celebrity lawyer Estelito Mendoza, decided to award 20% shares of San Miguel Corporation to claimant Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., who had funded purchase of the shares with coco levy funds held in the United Coconut Planters Bank of which he was then CEO. The ponente, Lucas Bersamin had stated in his opinion that the SC had decided that there was “no evidence,” haha, that Cojuangco was a Marcos crony. Here is another case of the rich (Cojuangco) winning over the poor (coconut farmers) notwithstanding the evidence.
I wonder whether new appointments to the Supreme Court which current President Rodrigo R. Duterte will be able to appoint during his 6-year term will improve the odds of obtaining fair justice for all in the Court of Last Resort.
The SC’s decision sitting as PET on the Marcos electoral protest vs. Vice-President Leni Robredo is crucial for the survival of our electoral democracy. Validation of the Marcos protest can lead to chaos, and who knows, the end to our democratic freedoms, including the right to choose our leaders through free and fair elections. We cannot let the situation proceed on this frightening course.
Teresa S. Abesamis is a former professor at the Asian Institute of Management and an independent development management consultant.